As always, if you think you might want to purchase anything I link to, please consider using my affiliate links. Thank you!
Dannie Kohan lives her life by the numbers. Her meticulous planning seems to have paid off after she nails the most important job interview of her career and accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal in one fell swoop, falling asleep completely content.
But when she awakens, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. Dannie spends one hour exactly five years in the future before she wakes again in her own home on the brink of midnight—but it is one hour she cannot shake. In Five Years is an unforgettable love story, but it is not the one you’re expecting.Amazon
A bait and switch speculative fiction chick-lit book that was a total bummer.
I need a break from New York books.
Over the past month or so I have read… too many. There was this one, this one, this one, and… oh yes… the next episode of my podcast is The Woman in the Window… another New York title that I cannot directly link to because the episode drops tomorrow. (Speaking of the podcast… The Divine Secrets had some New York influence as well… just sayin)
That might not seem like a lot to you. But it is like one a month so far this year and geeze it is a lot of New York.
Maybe I am especially bugged because *this* book is SO VERY New York… almost more than The City We Became –review here-, which is saying something considering that that book was about the actual city of New York becoming sentient and fighting the forces of evil (or maybe just the forces of “other”… your mileage will vary).
I’m already here, so let’s talk Atmosphere
New York. New York. Epitome and quintessential and almost paint by numbers New York. This is the sort of New York book that makes me not want to go to New York.
There are bagels and landmarks and corporate lawyers and name dropping and brand-name dropping and discussions of money and ethnicities that don’t seem overly relevant and location references that are probably only relevant to people who live in New York. Did I mention the book takes place in New York? In case you can’t tell… there is a picture of New York on the cover.
The writing was… fine. It was just kind of “meh.” Forgettable. Moving on!
Zomg. Our main character is So Very New York… at least the stereotype that this sort of book seems to like to employ. (What type of book? A speculative fiction book? Why… no! But we will get to that in a minute.) She is… Meh. forgettable. In fact, I think the author sort of forgot about her as well, or at least forgot about the *thing* that was supposed to make her special, quirky, interesting, and distinctive: the number thing.
See, the back of this book and the first chapter or so have this very specific personality trait established for Dannie. She is number/time driven. It takes X many minutes to shower, walk to work, eat a bagel. She is obsessed with time and numbers… she is the sort of person who would count the stairs and would know how long it takes to cross the street. Her life is all planned out *by the numbers* you see. (And yes, she has a free-spirited best friend who can’t be tied down to flit about and show us just how ordinary and boring and hyper controlling Dannie is)
But then… About maybe a third of the way through… this little foible of hers… goes away. Totally. It disappears into thin air. Now, you might say, is it gone because her attention has shifted due to the big Plot Thing (we will be talking about in just a sec)? No. Because there is another Plot Thing… the SUPRISE Plot Thing that happens -which I can’t tell you because I won’t spoil things- and this new SUPRISE Plot Thing should actually be all about time and the numbers! In fact, her rather pedestrian time/number obsession should kick into hyperdrive after SUPRISE Plot Thing… but it doesn’t!
Also, all the characters are super flat, one-dimensional, and should this book ever be optioned for a movie the casting call will probably call for “white, nondescript handsome/white nondescript pretty” and call it a day.
We have to talk about the plot. Carefully. Again, I don’t spoil things. But omg do I want to spoil this.
This back of the book tells us that Dannie is going to travel through time at the beginning of the book and that the glimpse of her future will haunt her. She spends the next few years trying to avoid her “fate.”
Because the time travel is like a meet-cute or an umbrella that gets blown into traffic. It affects like one or two early plot points, but ultimately to the actual story of the book? It is totally unnecessary. Most of the plot is SUPRISE Plot Thing and that has zero to do with the time travel.
I don’t think it is a spoiler to say that the time travel thing never gets explained. And by itself that isn’t a huge issue. (see Kindred), but the fact that it ultimately doesn’t even matter for the actual main plot of the book…? That matters.
That makes it a bait and switch. This book is a chick-lit book about SUPRISE Plot Thing hiding behind a speculative fiction inconsequential moment. The type of book this book becomes? Is not the type of book I would normally read. And even if I were to throw past experiences into the wind or try to live a little and pick up a straight chick-lit book, this particular form of chick-lit (SUPRISE Plot Thing) is the kind that I would personally nope out of… but by the time it comes up in this book, I am already waist-deep and hoping against hope that we would revisit the time travel thing and have committed to read this book for book club and write about it so it is too late to stop reading.
Again, the time travel serves no real purpose. The rest of the plot (including SUPRISE Plot Thing) would have totally happened anyway!
Why THIS book?
Book club. Ok… not totally fair. A book club member wanted the group to read it a year ago when it was in hardback. I don’t know if she was vouching for it or just telling us she read it. We don’t read hardbacks though because we use our library system and borrow books from one another. Whatever, the title stuck in my head and so when I came across it super cheap and saw the time travel bit on the back, I bought it. Then book club needed a short light book (ha!) to read since May was a short month for us… so it got voted on and viola!
I hope my review was entertaining. This is the condensed version of the rant I gave my poor CXG rewatch group over zoom the other night. The book itself… no. It was frustrating and not what it pretended to be.
The only interesting part about this book was that when Dannie finally gets to that bit of her future that she had glimpsed at the beginning, she participates in it the same way she did when she was confused and unsure why she was in the future. The dialogue and scene beats are the same but with totally different background knowledge and meaning behind all the actions. This was actually really interesting and well written (with only one bit being clunky). There was also potential for some deeper things. The idea that we can’t escape our fate and that we are fated to do specific actions even if our reasonings and motivations are different is a very interesting concept and Serle actually almost gets us to think about that… but no. Everything is overshadowed by SUPRISE Plot Thing and tired cliches from the chick-lit world.
Would I recommend it?
Also, I feel like there is an unspoken contract for genre fiction. If you are in the world of romance, you expect a few certain things. Same with cozy mysteries. Same with chick-lit about SUPRISE Plot Thing… but when you tell people it is speculative fiction and then it turns into a very specific subset of chick-lit… no. Just. No. And yes… the blurb on the back does say “unforgettable love story, but it is not the one you’re expecting.” but A- that seems like PR schlock you could say about almost anything and B- it isn’t the love story part that is what we aren’t expecting… it is the genre itself.
*** ASPECT Method (I created this, I used it, feel free to do the same.)
A Atmosphere: How did it make me feel? What was the world like? This might include the overall tone.
S Style: What was the writing style like? Simplistic or sophisticated? Clunky or beautiful?
P Plot/Pace: Was it engaging? Were there holes? Did it feel too rushed or too long?
E Enjoyment: Was it a chore to finish or compelling enough that I picked it over other fun activities?
C Characters: Were they believable, sympathetic, interesting?
T This? Why did I read *This* book?